Brunswick public defender says district attorney is holding cases hostage

Brunswick Judicial Circuit Public Defender Kevin Gough is accusing District Attorney Jackie Johnson of wasting taxpayer dollars and delaying justice by holding cases hostage.

“It doesn’t add up,” said Gough.

Gough said Johnson has filed just 71 cases with his office in the first quarter of this year. Compare that to 261 cases filed in the same time frame last year.

“We have 2011, 2012, 2013 cases on a 2016 trial calendar. Interestingly, not a single 2016 case for the public defender is on the May calendar, and we’re almost halfway through the year,” said Gough.

Gough is up for reappointment and said Johnson is trying to wait him out of office, then dump hundreds of cases on the attorneys there.

He calls it a waste of taxpayer dollars.

“It costs more money to let the cases sit than to go ahead and deal with them,” said Gough.

Johnson would not agree to an interview with Action News Jax, but sent the following statement through her assistant:

“The District Attorney’s job is to seek a just result on each case, and not to adhere to any quotas or statistics.

"Our office examines each case independently on its merits before proceeding with formal criminal charges. Ongoing investigations, outstanding crime lab results, and our ability to meet with witnesses may affect the time in which cases are filed.

"In addition, a successful pre-trial diversion program and a proactive partnership with Federal agencies may also have had an impact on the volume of cases that proceed formally through Superior Court.”

In the past few weeks, Gough said his office has filed dozens of pleas to the Georgia bar, saying the district attorney is violating his clients’ rights to a speedy trial by waiting to file.

“The practical matter is a case can sit for years without a constitutional speedy trial demand having any impact,” said Gough.

Johnson was the subject of an Action News Jax Investigation in November. Former prosecutors accused her of mishandling the case involving Caroline Small. The unarmed mother was shot to death by police. The officers involved were never charged.